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MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM 3: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 31

Isaiah 11:1-12:6   Link to LXE

continued from Journal 30

The Remnant

A believing remnant whom God will spare from his devastating judgment has been a theme from the beginning of Isaiah. Eleven times Isaiah speaks of a remnant of Israel in chapters 1 through 12. Six of these references occur in chapters 10 and 11. The time frame of chapters 10 and 11 take the reader to the advent of Christ and at least as far as the present. Nowhere in the first twelve chapters does Isaiah ever say that all Israel will be saved. While I do believe that other portions of Scripture indicate this, it is not here, not now.

Isaiah 10:22 And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved. 23 He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because the Lord will make a short work in all the world. (LXE)

Paul uses the above passage and others to explain how it is that Gentiles receive the Gospel and salvation. Simultaneously, for the most part, the bulk of Israel rejects that same gospel.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” (ESV)

God Remembers His Remnant

God does not forget his remnant of Israel. Chapter 11 picks up the theme begun in chapter 10. Isaiah weaves together the salvation promised the remnant with the salvation promised the Gentiles. Notice how he does this in the following verses.

Isaiah 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. 11 And it shall be in that day, that the Lord shall again shew his hand, to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, which shall be left by the Assyrians, and that from Egypt, and from the country of Babylon, and from Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia. 12 And he shall lift up a standard for the nations, and he shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and he shall gather the dispersed of Juda from the four corners of the earth. 13 … 16 And there shall be a passage for my people that is left [verb form of “remnant”] in Egypt: and it shall be to Israel as the day when he came forth out of the land of Egypt. (Isa 11:10 LXE)

The Remnant and the Gentiles

Jesus, Messiah, the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10), became the chief cornerstone of the Christian church. “In that day,”–the day of Messiah–the church included both the remnant of Israel and Gentiles. In addition to the verses already mentioned in Isaiah 11Isaiah 12:4 makes this abundantly clear.

Isaiah 11:16 closes with mention of “the remnant of My people” (SAAS) (1). The very next verse, Isaiah 12:1, opens with the word, “And…” Grammatically, this “and” is a strong conjunction, και (kay). This word “and” connects the two paragraphs, which speak of the same topic. Therefore, when God addresses the people as “you” in chapter 12, he speaks to the same remnant, who is now worshipping him. God states the following.

Isaiah 12:1 And in that day thou shalt say, I will bless thee, O Lord… (LXE)

The conversation continues unbroken, as God speaks further to the same group of people, his remnant.

Isaiah 12:4 And in that day thou shalt say, sing to the Lord, call aloud upon his name, proclaim his glorious deeds among the Gentiles; make mention that his name is exalted. (LXE)

For proper understanding of the book of Isaiah, it is important to note that Isaiah includes both a Jewish remnant and Gentiles who turn to God in the day of Messiah. The New Testament, especially the book of Acts and the writings of Paul, bear ample witness to the fulfillment of these prophecies spoken more than 600 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah.

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1 “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

 

TWO KINGDOMS OF ISRAEL AND ADVENT OF THE SON: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 28

By BylineChristina Wilson on 

Isaiah 9:1-10:34   Link to LXE

Flashback

The book of Isaiah opens with God’s displeasure upon the two kingdoms of Israel, the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. In Isaiah’s own lifetime, God will judge Israel and remove the people from his land, much as he judged the entire world by means of Noah’s flood. But just as God spared Noah, so he will spare a remnant who repent and trust in him (Isaiah 1:9).

But this cycle of disobedience, judgment, new beginning, followed by disobedience, judgment, and so on might continue forever. Fallen humankind is not able to consistently govern well. Israel’s history proves this. God has a plan, however. He announces the advent of a Child, an amazing Son.

6 … and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Who Is This Son?

So far, Isaiah has given glimpses.

Isaiah 2:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into sickles: and nation shall not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more. (Excerpted from Isaiah 2:2-4 LXE)

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel. (LXE)

But the view from chapter 9 is amazing. The Son is light and joy. God favors him so much that he decrees a government ruled by him that will last forever. He will be born from David’s line and in the land of the northern kingdom.

Messiah Is Isaiah’s Main Theme

Isaiah 9:1-7 brings Messiah to the forefront. He is everything God wants, and his theme is peace.

Isaiah 9:1 and he that is in anguish shall not be distressed only for a time. Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.
3 The multitude of the people which thou hast brought down in thy joy, they shall even rejoice before thee as they that rejoice in harvest, and as they that divide the spoil.
4 Because the yoke that was laid upon them has been taken away, and the rod that was on their neck: for he has broken the rod of the exactors, as in the day of Madiam.
5 For they shall compensate for every garment that has been acquired by deceit, and all raiment with restitution; and they shall be willing, even if they were burnt with fire.
6 For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.
7 His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgement and with righteousness, from henceforth and forever. The seal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
(LXE)

How blessed the northern kingdom will be in that day!

Notes:

1. The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Isaiah 9:4, “The day of Midian refers to the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon and his men without the use weapons (see Jdg 7:9-25). These men prefigure the apostles, who spread the gospel throughout the world with only ‘the weapons of peace,’ the preaching of the Cross.” (1)

2. Isaiah 9:5 in the Septuagint (see above) reads very differently than the Masoretic text. Luke 19:8, about the salvation of Zacchaeus, fulfills the Septuagint.

3. The initial view of Messiah is through the eyes of his people and the effect he has upon them, Isaiah 9:1-5.

But First, the Judgment Against Israel

But before all this can take place, Israel (the northern kingdom) must be judged and the people removed (Isaiah 9:8-10:4). This section opens with the statement–

The Lord sent death against Jacob, and it came on Israel. (SAAS) (2)

The remainder of chapter 9 and the first four verses of chapter 10 describe the manner of this death.

Verses of Note

1. Extreme hardness of heart: Isaiah 9:(12)13 “But the people did not turn until they were struck, yet they did not seek the Lord” (SAAS). Revelation 9:20-21 is reminiscent of this, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent…”

2. Deception in the guise of blessing: Isaiah 9:(15)16 “For those who bless this people lead them astray, and they lead them astray so as to destroy them.” (SAAS)

3. Brother against brother: Isaiah 9:(19b-20a)20b-21a “Manasseh shall devour Ephraim and Ephraim Manasseh. Together they shall besiege Judah…” (SAAS)

4. Laws written by design against the poor and needy: Isaiah 10:1-2 “Woe to those who write evil things, for when they write such things, they turn aside judgment from the poor, and rob judgment from the needy of the people, that the widow may be their prey and the orphan a spoil.” (SAAS)

5. God’s anger continues: Isaiah 9:(11, 16, 20 and Isaiah 10:4)12, 17, 21 and 10:4 “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is still uplifted.” (SAAS)

Judgment Against Assyria

God used the armies of Assyria to execute his condemnation upon Israel (chapter 9). Assyria, however, did not recognize that God gave them the power to conquer Israel and take her captive. Attributing their success to their own prowess (Isaiah 10:7-14) rather than to God’s permissive will, they determined to attack the southern kingdom of Jerusalem, as well (Isaiah 10:5-14). But God had other plans.

Isaiah 10:12 But it shall come to pass, when the Lord has completed all He will do on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will go against the arrogant heart of the king of the Assyrians and the glory of his haughty looks. (SAAS)

The prophet Habakkuk, less than one century after the close of Isaiah, prophesied similarly concerning the nation of Chaldea, or Babylon. In the three chapters of Habakkuk, the prophet and God dialogue with each other. (This is called prayer). God explains in Habakkuk 1-3, the same as in Isaiah 10, how he uses a powerful but wicked nation to punish and cleanse his own people. Afterward, God also punishes the “punisher” for their wicked excesses in carrying out His plan. In short, God rules history and all nations. Nations are but tools in his hand.

Isaiah 10:15 Shall the ax glorify itself without him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself without him who saws with it? It is likewise if one should lift a rod or a piece of wood. (SAAS)

How Does the Remainder of Isaiah 10 Unfold?

  • Isaiah 10:16-19 compares God to a light that burns like fire. The cleansing fire will consume the fleeing Assyrians, until there are none of them left but a small enough number a child could count. 2Kings 19 records in great detail the fall of Assyria in Judah. Note: The study note for Isaiah 10:17 in The Orthodox Study Bible (1) states, “The Light of Israel (v. 17) that will sanctify God’s people speaks poetically of the Holy Spirit.” That is, if the Assyrians poetically represent sin in the land, then the Light of Israel, the Holy Spirit, is what cleanses the believing church and individual from sin.
  • Isaiah speaks of the remnant of Israel in Isaiah 10:20-22. Those who have ever been “wronged” know what a blessing of comfort these words are. So many victims of abuse are dependent upon their abusers. But a day will come when they will only trust in God, their Savior.

20 It shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel and those of Jacob who were saved will never again obey those who wronged them; but they will trust in God, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 The remnant of Jacob shall trust in the Mighty God. 22 For though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved… (SAAS)

  • Verses Isaiah 10:22b-23 speak of how God’s righteous judgment will be accomplished quickly, and in all the world. This is exactly how the cross of Christ played out. In the timeline of all history, the judgment upon evil and the righteousness of salvation happened in a single day, overnight, as it were. Here, of course, the literal meaning applies to how the Assyrian army left Judah extremely quickly (2Kings 19:32-36).

22b … for He shall accomplish the word and cut it short in righteousness. 23 For God will accomplish the word and cut it short in all the world. (SAAS)

  • Isaiah 10:24-31 continues to describe the details of Assyria’s downfall and the cities through which they pass.
  • In the final verses of Isaiah 1032-24, God continues to instruct Isaiah concerning how he should comfort Judah at this point in their history. Their time has not yet come. First, “the Master, the Lord of hosts” will bring down the haughty and lofty Assyrians.
  • Chapter 11 returns again to Messiah.
to be continued…

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1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

2 For this and all other quotations marked SAAS: “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–8

One of my favorite biblical phrases from a years’ old memory is, “clear shining after rain.” It’s found in 2 Samuel 23:4, in David’s last words. It’s phrased like that in the King James and New King James:

2 Samuel 23:4 And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, Like the tender grass springing out of the earth, By clear shining after rain.’ (NKJ)

I believe this to be a prophecy of the King, the Lord, as Ruler of humankind. The feeling and images aroused by these words–the joy–are what springs to my heart as I continue in Isaiah 4:2-6. These five verses provide such a sharp contrast to the chapters preceding them, that they are like “clear shining after rain.” The entire passage from Brenton’s Septuagint reads:

Isaiah 4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.
3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy.
4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning.
5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. (LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Every verse in this portion connects with other portions of Scripture, many in the New Testament.

But first, whom is Isaiah addressing in this portion? Verses 3:16-4:1 appear to have been spoken in their entirety by the Lord, since they flow unbroken from verse 16, which says, “Thus saith the Lord,…” (LXE, Seputagint, Brenton). That section is all judgment against “the daughters of Sion.” (For an analysis of who these daughters may be, see Journal 7.)

In great contrast to the prior section, Isaiah 4:2-6 is a segment of restoration, not judgment. According to the Septuagint, it is addressed to (that is, written about), the remnant. This word occurs three times in two verses (that’s lots! See the text above.) For a word analysis of the “remnant”, see Journal  2 and Journal 3. In the ESV and NET, the word remnant does not appear. In verse 4:2, the ESV uses the word “survivors,” and in verse 3, the phrases, “he who is left,” and “remains.” The NET writes, “those who remain,” in verse 2, and “those remaining,” and “those left,” in verse 3. These words, “survivors,” “remains” and “left,” are lexical synonyms provided by Thayer (for all three phrases) and BDAG (for the latter two phrases). The Greek words themselves are καταλειφθὲν and ὑπολειφθὲν. (1)

No matter which version one uses, the text is clear that Isaiah here refers to a different group of people than the previous text. Verse 4 declares that the Lord will “wash away the filth” and “purge out the blood from the midst of them” with “the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning.” That is to say, the people described in Isaiah 2 and 3 have been washed away and purged out. These verses talk about the “survivors,” the “remnant,” those who are “left,” and those who “remain,” after the purging has been completed. These verses are not a prophecy of what shall happen to the unrepentant sinners, those whom Isaiah says never repent, those who choose to cling to their ways, those who never turn back to the Lord with an admission of their wrongdoing. Those people will be removed. These words are for (about) the ones who remain after that process has been completed.

Why is this important? 

I have presented a case for two distinct audiences whom Isaiah addresses or speaks about. One audience is the bulk, the majority, of the nation. The second audience is the remnant. The destruction of judgment is determined for the bulk. Repentance and cleansing are prophesied for the remnant. The alternative to this explanation is that the Lord does not mean what he says and does not say what he means.

The bulk of the text so far has described the great anger of the Lord against, as he says, “my people.” He makes statements such as the following:

Isaiah 2:20 For in that day a man shall cast forth his silver and gold abominations, which they made in order to worship vanities and bats; 21 to enter into the caverns of the solid rock, and into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. LXE

Isaiah 3:25 And thy most beautiful son whom thou lovest shall fall by the sword; and your mighty men shall fall by the sword, and shall be brought low. 26 And the stores of your ornaments shall mourn, and thou shalt be left alone, and shalt be levelled with the ground.

Am I saying that if one of the wicked people with whom the Lord is so angry repents, that the Lord will not forgive them? No, of course not. But nowhere in the context of chapters 2:5 through 4:1 do we read of any of the wicked repenting. If they did, of course they would be saved. Where Isaiah 2:19-21 is quoted in the New Testament, Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16, repentance is also not a theme. Old Testament history bears out that in the period before the exile, the time period when Isaiah was writing, there was never a national repentance. The people were removed, the temple was destroyed, and the nation around Jerusalem flattened.

In Isaiah 4:2-6 then, as regards a national restoration, this will occur only insofar as the nation as a whole repents. How far into the future does this prophecy extend? After Isaiah wrote these words, Babylon did destroy the nation and remove its people. Afterwards, a post-exilic remnant returned, Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, Herod rebuilt that temple, Jesus prophesied its destruction (Luke 23:28-31), Jesus died and rose again for the whole world, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., and the Jewish people were brought back by the Allied powers after the war. Has the nation as a whole repented? Not yet. However, this glorious portion of Isaiah speaks to a repentant remnant. Whether that remnant will include the entire bulk of the current or a future nation remains to be seen. Whatever happens does not change the necessity of repentance.

If the reader does not hear Isaiah speaking alternately to two different audiences, they are left to think that God is saying in 4:2-6 and throughout Isaiah, Oh, it’s okay. I know I sound angry in these chapters, but don’t worry. Everything will turn out all right in the end. You don’t have to do anything. I will cleanse all your sins and everything will be wonderful in the end.

But that’s not what Isaiah teaches. He teaches that God will cleanse the nation by removing those who persistently disobey his commandments to do good, care for the poor, remain faithful in his worship, follow his law. Those people, the bulk, will be removed, and the ones who survive that process, because they repent and look to God, have a glorious future. They are the remnant God chooses to bless.

God is not “schizophrenic,” as in that word’s popular, metaphorical usage, as one who frequently and unpredictably changes. “Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (ESV)

Learning to spot the changes of audience in Isaiah helps enormously in understanding the singular pupose of God in this book.

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1 The Septuagint, which is the Old Greek and its more modern counterparts, was translated from a Hebrew textual tradition that was not the Masoretic. (Yes, way back in the olden days, way back, there was more than one Hebrew textual tradition.) Most of our modern English translations follow the Masoretic. However, much of the New Testament derives its quotations from an unknown version of the Septuagint, not the Masoretic tradition of Hebrew text.

Most likely because of its translation and transmission history, the Septuagint is uneven in places. I generally don’t use it as a stand-alone Bible, but then, I don’t use most translations that way. I have a personal compulsion to check several versions for matters of interest, regardless of what I am studying. In general, though, I prefer the Septuagint for most of the Psalter and for this portion of Isaiah, as well.

Long ago, as a young Christian, I began with the NASB as my devotional and study Bible. After I discovered Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint, I noticed that the NASB often “neutered” (my own description) phrases about Christ in the Psalms. It has a tendency to obscure Old Testament passages with reference to Christ, that is, in comparison to the Septuagint. Where the Septuagint points to a definite Person, the NASB often chooses an indefinite pronoun or abstract noun. These are such general observations as to be academically useless, but I am speaking from my personal, devotional point of view. The Septuagint does not shy away from presenting Christ in the Old Testament, whereas certain modern translations do. This is why I grew to love the Septuagint and to prefer translations that remain more faithful to the original text, such as the ESV, and in former days, the King James Bible.

 

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